Showcasing Laois History and Heritage
An Initiative of Laois Library Service


Local Studies staff provide expertise, guidance and assistance with genealogical queries free of charge, but Local Studies does not offer a professional genealogical research service.

Queries can be forwarded to Laois Local Studies by letter, phone or email. Researchers are welcome to visit Local Studies in person. Advance booking is not required, but it is advisable as spaces are limited. Friday is strictly by appointment.

In recent years many of the records necessary for doing genealogy in Ireland were digitised and made available to search online. Some are available on free to use websites, while others can be accessed on popular subscription sites. Laois Local Studies holds additional unique material useful for Laois family research. Find below a guide to genealogical resources for County Laois.

Census Records
Civil Records of Birth, Marriage & Death
Church Records
Primary Valuation of Ireland or Griffith’s Valuation (c. 1848-1864)
Tithe Applotment Books (c.1823-1837)
Cemeteries and Graveyards
Estate Records
Board of Guardians Minute Books

Census records are one of the most useful resources for researching family history. A census was undertaken in Ireland every decade from 1821, but the nineteenth century records were almost completely destroyed by the bombing of the Public Record Office in 1922 and by British government decision. Fragments of the earlier census records survived, but Laois records were completely destroyed, with the exception of one household in 1851 and one in 1841.

The 1901 and 1911 census records provide information on every member of a household including name, age, sex, religion, birth place, occupation, literacy, marital status, language and specified illnesses. All occupants are defined in relation to the head of the household, clearly outlining family connections. Other forms record information on the standard of housing and additional buildings, which can indicate the family’s economic position or quality of life. Information can also include the name of the landlord.

Laois Local Studies holds microfilm copies of the 1901 Census for Laois, but all records are available to search, free of charge, on the National Archives of Ireland website linked below.

Civil registration of births, marriages and deaths commenced in Ireland in 1864, although non Catholic marriages were registered from 1845. Civil records are an important resource for genealogical research, as they provide a link between generations of the same family.

As registration districts were based on the Poor Law Union structure, it should be noted that ancestors born in Laois will appear under the following registration areas: Mountmellick, Abbeyleix, Donaghmore, Roscrea, Athy and Carlow.

Laois Local Studies does not hold civil records for Laois, but records are available to search, free of charge, on the government website below.

Church records are an essential resource for genealogical research in Ireland. As civil registration did not commence until 1864 (excluding non Catholic marriages) and the nineteenth century census records were destroyed, church records of baptism, marriage and burial provide the only real source of genealogical information for the first half of the nineteenth century.

To access church records it is necessary to know the religious denomination of your ancestors and the area in which they resided. Historically, Laois was home to many religious denominations including the following: Catholic, Church of Ireland, Methodist, Presbyterian, Huguenot and the Society of Friends (Quaker). Laois Local Studies does not hold copies of church records, although many of our local history publications contain transcriptions of church records and information on different religious communities.

There are many useful website for accessing church records.

Catholic Records

The National Library of Ireland have digitised surviving Catholic registers and made them available to search online, free of charge. The records are only available up to about 1880, but as civil registration commenced in 1864, civil records can be used to source information from that point.

The search facility on the National Library website is limited and accessing the relevant records can be challenging. Catholic records are available on a variety of commercial websites. These sites have enhanced search facilities and can be useful, particularly when unsure of your ancestor’s parish. See below links to some of the most useful commercial sites for Catholic records.

Church of Ireland Records

As the Church of Ireland was the established or state church until 1869, its records were state records and were housed in the Public Record Office. Parish registers that survived the bombing of the PRO in 1922 are currently housed in the National Archives of Ireland.

Post 1869 registers, originals and/or copies, are housed in the Representative Church Body Library in Churchtown, Dublin. See link below for a complete listing of registers available

The Representative Church Body Library is currently digitising its collection, but Laois registers are not yet available. See link below for updates on registers available, free of charge

Some records are available on the following commercial sites

Presbyterian Records

The custodians of Presbyterian registers are the local clergy, the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland and the Presbyterian Historical Society in Belfast. See links below for further information.

In southern Ireland Presbyterians are often found in Church of Ireland records, especially when a Presbyterian church didn’t exist in their vicinity. Historically, Laois had Presbyterian Churches in Mountmellick and Portarlington. Mountmellick Presbyterian Church still exists and registers are held locally. For further information email

Methodist Records

Pre 1820 most Methodists appear in the registers of other protestant churches, particularly Church of Ireland registers. By the 1830s baptisms appear in local Methodist church/circuit registers, where Methodist churches were established. Marriages are not recorded in Methodist registers until about 1863.

Historically, there were several Methodist churches in Laois, including Abbeyleix, Coolballey, Mount Salem, Oldtown, Maryborough (Portlaoise), Stradbally, Mountrath, Ballyfin, Ballyhuppahaun, Mountmellick and Portarlington. Churches are still active in Portlaoise and Mountmellick, where local records are held onsite.

Further information on resources for family research can be found on the following link

Huguenot Records

There was a Huguenot settlement in Portarlington from 1692. Irish Huguenot records are published in the Huguenot Society Journal.

Irish Huguenot archives are held in the Representative Church Body Library in Dublin.

Laois Local Studies hold copies of Huguenot records on cd-Rom & in local history publications.

Society of Friends (Quakers) Records

Members of the Society of Friends settled in Laois from the mid 1600s, following the Cromwellian Settlement of Ireland. Members are associated with the town of Mountmellick, but communities lived in many part of Laois including Mountrath, Rosenallis and Ballinakill.

The Society of Friends does not have church registers, but births, marriages and deaths of members are recorded in the minutes of local meetings. All records are held in the Quaker Archives in Rathfarnham, Dublin. The archive is also available to search online on the commercial site

Mountmellick Development Association holds copies of some Quaker records and has compiled a database of Laois Quakers for genealogical research

Laois Local Studies has a collection of publications on the history of the Society of Friends in Ireland, with many local history publications focusing on families and communities in Laois

Griffith’s Valuation was carried out to determine how much holders of property should pay in tax. It contains little genealogical information, recording only the names of the occupier and lessor; location, amount and value of land occupied; tax owed on the holding.

Despite its limitations, Griffith’s Valuations is an important resource for the following reasons: it confirms ancestors were in a specific place in the mid 1800s; land holdings can be viewed on maps; it provides the name of the ‘immediate lessor’ or landlord, enabling researchers to follow up on estate papers where they exist; it can be seen as an indicator of an ancestor’s economic situation.

Laois Local Studies holds microfiche copies of Griffith’s Valuation for Laois, but the entire collection is free to search on the link below

The Tithe Applotment Books recorded how much tithe or tax an occupier of land should pay towards the upkeep of the Church of Ireland, the official state church in Ireland until 1871. They contain little genealogical information, recording only the name of the occupier, location and amount of land occupied, and the amount owed. Tithes were only levied on agricultural land, so urban populations are not included.

Laois Local Studies holds microfiche copies of the Tithe Applotment Books for Laois, but the entire collection is free to search on the website of the National Archives of Ireland on the link below.


Newspapers can be a rich source of information for family research. Notices of births, marriages and deaths can provide family names and dates of key events. Similarly, obituaries can provide extensive detail on ancestors’ lives. It should be noted that such notices and obituaries were initially confined to wealthy and prominent members of society until the twentieth century.

Accounts of social events, accidents, court cases and inquests are a good source of information on the general population. Advertisements provide information on local businesses and commercial families.

Laois Local Studies holds microfilm and hardcopies of the following local newspapers

Leinster Independent 1835-1840; 1869-1875 (microfilm)

Leinster Independent. Kildare, Kings, Queens & Midlands Counties Advertiser. Port Laoighise c.1871 – 1874 (microfilm)

Leinster Express 1831 – 2016 (microfilm) 2016-current (hardcopy)

Laois Nationalist, formerly Nationalist & Leinster Times 1883 – 2004 (microfilm) 2004-2006; 2008-current (hardcopy). The hardcopies are currently being microfilmed and so are unavailable until further notice.

The Leinster Express and Laois Nationalist are digitised and searchable on the following commercial website 

This is a subscription  website, but it is available to use, free of charge, in all Laois Library branches. It contains many regional and national newspaper titles.

Laois Local Studies holds copies of interment registers for cemeteries administered by Laois County Council. The list of cemeteries and dates available are listed below.


Interments Registers

Abbeyleix  (Old)                                               02/12/1904 – 17/08/1973

Abbeyleix (New)                                              19/09/1960 – 14/11/2001

Annatrim                                                           08/03/1955 – 26/04/1999

Ballacolla                                                           13/04/1989 –  24/05/2001

Ballinakill                                                          18/10/1929 – 14/11/2001

Ballyadams                                                        07/03/1971 – 01/11/2001

Ballyfin                                                               08/01/1940 – 05/11/2001

Ballylinan                                                           22/11/1988 – 13/09/2001

Barrowhouse                                                     23/08/1988 – 11/06/2000

Belady                                                                 27/03/1974 – 07/11/2001

Borris-in –Ossory                                             17/11/1985 – 23/06/2008

Camross (Old)                                                  06/11/1940 – 12/11/2001

Camross (New)                                                 31/01/1989 – 18/10/2001

Churchtown (Old)                                            20/11/1963 – 03/10/2000

Churchtown (New)                                          18/11/1981 – 13/07/2001

Clonaslee                                                            25/03/1951 – 02/06/2001

Coolkerry                                                           15/07/1948 – 18/08/1953

Emo                                                                     03/08/1969 – 13/10.2001

Killeshin                                                             22/08/1977 – 15/05/2001

Mountmellick                                                   30/08/1905 – 09/06/2001

Mountrath                                                         14/05/1952 – 13/11/2001

Moyanna                                                            15/01/1990 – 28/07/2001

Portlaoise (New)                                              27/02/1897 – 07/12/1990

Raheen                                                               09/02/1939 – 23/10/2001

Rathdowney                                                      30/07/1929 – 13/11/2001

Rosenallis                                                          10/10/1908 – 08/11/2001

Shanahoe                                                           20/01/1970 – 16/09/2001

Sleaty                                                                  20/01/1991 – 12/11/2001

Stradbally                                                          05/05/1972 – 29/10/2001

Timahoe                                                             05/02/1941 – 10/11/2001


Local Studies holds publications on a selection of Laois graveyards including the following titles:

Borris-in-Ossory Parish by John Phelan

Graveyards of Laois (CD-Rom) by Jack McDonald

An illustratred history of Tullore Graveyard by Paddy Carroll

Gravestone inscriptions from Killeshin, Sleaty, Graiguecullen, Mayo, Arles, Doonane, Castletown, Rathaspick, Shrule, Rathnure etc. by Paul Redmond

Registers of the French Church of Portarlington, Ireland by Thomas Philip Le Fanu (CD-ROM)

Portarlington, 1800-1850 by John Stocks Powell

History through headstones: Clough, St. Fergal’s, Bordwell, Aghaboe, Killermogh by St. Fergals Secondary School Rathdowney

History of Castlebrack by Bridie Dunne

Laois Burial Grounds Survey 2011 by Laois Heritage Forum


Church burial registers are less available as registers of baptisms and marriages, particularly for Catholic parishes. However, some are available on commercial websites. Information taken from gravestone inscriptions is more common. Find below a list of free websites containing gravestone inscriptions for some Laois graveyards.

Laois Local Studies holds a large collection of publications useful for family research, from genealogy reference books to journal articles and publications on particular Laois families. Local histories allow researchers to discover more about the time and place in which their ancestors lived, providing context in which to interpret the information they uncover. Find below some of the classic sources for the understanding of Laois history and society and key genealogical texts held in Local Studies

History of the Queen’s County. 2 Vols. by Canon O’Hanlon

Laois history and society by Padraig G. Lane & William Nolan

The history of the Queen’s County by Daniel O’Byrne

A statistical survey of the Queen’s County, 1801 by Sir Charles Coote

Journal of the Laois Heritage Society. 9 Vols. by Laois Heritage Society

Laois Association yearbooks by Laois Association

Burke’s Landed Gentry

Burke’s Irish Family Records

Irish Pedigrees or the origin and stem of the Irish nation by John O’Hart

Irish landed gentry when Cromwell came to Ireland by John Hart

A topographical dictionary of Ireland by Samuel Lewis

Land owners in Ireland 1876

In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries the majority of Irish people were tenants on landed estates. Estate records such as leases, maps, rentals, rent books and correspondence often contain information on individual tenants. Unfortunately, not all estate records survived and many are held in private collections.

Laois estate records are challenging to locate for several reasons. Some landlords were ‘absentees’ and their Laois holdings were just a fraction of their entire Irish or English estate. As a result, Laois estate records can be buried in larger estate collections and are sometimes held in repositories in the UK. The rise of Irish nationalism in the early twentieth century, combined with land purchase schemes, resulted in some locally based landlords selling their estates and withdrawing to England. This often led to records being lost or dispersed over several repositories. Examples from Laois include the Flower family of Durrow Castle, the Coote family of Ballyfin House and the Dawson-Damer family of Emo Court. Large locally based landowners, such as the Cosby and De Vesci families, remained in Laois and their extensive collections are complete. Find below a general guide to Laois estate records.

Laois Local Studies holds a small collection of resources on local estates, including the following:

  • Milltown Estate Papers, a small collection of archives of the Earl and Countess of Milltown
  • Some manuscript maps relating to the Coote Estate
  • Digital copies of maps relating to the Walsh-Kemmis Estate in Ballykillcavan, generously donated to the Laois Digital Repository by David Walsh-Kemmis.
  • De Vesci Estate Papers are available in the National Library of Ireland, but Laois Local Studies holds a calendar of the collection published by the Irish Manuscript Commission. The NLI’s descriptive list can be accessed below.

  • Cosby Estate Papers are held privately by the Cosby family, but Local Studies has a descriptive list of the collection and has microfilm copies of some records relating to tenants.

The National Library of Ireland holds the largest collection of estate papers. In addition to the De Vesci Estate Papers, it includes the following:

  • Lord Castletown Papers. The descriptive list can be accessed below.

  • Flower Papers (Castle Durrow)
  • Chetwode Papers (Woodbrook, Portarlington)
  • Domville Papers (Trench, Heywood)

The Genealogical Society of Ireland holds a large collection of property records donated by a Laois solicitor. The collection, known as the Laois Papers, contains a vast amount of records, including leases, rentals, assignments, indentures, wills, settlements and deeds. Many records relate to the Coote Estate. The records are not digitised, but lists are available on the links below.

The National Archives of Ireland hold some property records relating to Laois including the following:

  • Coote records (accessions 999/404: 1025/1/19-26: 1025/3/10: 1025/4/4: 1025/5/1-3: 1147/6: also MFA 37)
  • Franks and Carter Estate Office, Mountrath, County Laois, dating from the 17th to 20th centuries (accessions 1025/1/52-55 & 130-49: 1025/3/19: 1025/3/47: 1025/3/48: 1025/4/10: 1025/5/24)

Many records relating to Laois estates are found within larger collections in several Irish archives. For example, records relating to the Earl of Portarlington are held in the National Library, National Archives and Public Record Office of Northern Ireland.

Information on landed estates in Ireland can be accessed on the landedestates website. To date, this site has concentrated on estates in the west of Ireland, but as estates were often spread over several counties and/or provinces, it also contains information on landed families with properties in Laois.

Laois Local Studies holds original, microfilm and digital copies of Board of Guardians Minute Books for the Poor Law Unions of Mountmellick, Abbeyleix and Donaghmore. Further details on this collection are available.

This record series is limited as a source of genealogical information. The minutes contain weekly reports on the workhouses, but the information recorded is mainly statistical. Information on individual workhouse inmates is rarely found in the minute books, but occasionally named inmates are discussed, usually in relation to discipline, progression from the workhouse to employment and assisted emigration. The records can contain information on people from the vicinity including employees, local suppliers of goods and services.

The workhouses kept admission and discharge registers of inmates, but neither have survived for the workhouses in Laois.

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